In recent times we have also seen evolution among journalists. And torture of journalists is an old strategy. At one time our national poet Kazi Nazrul Islam was engaged in writing poems as well as editing magazines. He used to talk about agricultural and hard working people in his daily magazine ‘Navayug’. By inspiring the people of the subjugated country with the spirit of freedom, he was forced to compose poems, stories and essays and publish them in the newspapers. His defendant was infuriated by the government for his writings. In January 1921, the government closed down the ‘New Age’ to publish anti-government articles in defiance of the ban.
Besides, in November 1922, then the government shut down its comet. At the same time, the poet was sentenced to 1 (one) year rigorous imprisonment. He was tortured and mistreated in jail. For this he went on a 40-day fast. Finally, in December 1923, Kazi Nazrul Islam was released from prison. After the establishment of ‘Bakshal’ in independent Bangladesh, in order to stifle the voice of the media, on 16 June 1975, then the government closed down all the other newspapers leaving 4 (four) under their control.
After the Sepoy-People’s Revolution in November of the same year, Ziaur Rahman took charge of the country. After he became President, he reintroduced multi-party democracy, abolished all undemocratic sections of the Bakshal government and restored freedom of the press. According to the unanimous decision of the Annual Council of the Undivided Dhaka Union of Journalists (DUJ) in 1986, June 17 is observed as ‘Black Day’ every year.
In recent times, new versions of journalistic torture are being observed. Freedom of speech is taken away from others in the name of freedom of speech, freedom of speech is silenced, freedom of movement is taken away. Newspaper publications were canceled and television channels were shut down for criticizing the government’s immoral actions in the media.
Diganta Television and Islamic TV were shut down on May 5, 2013 due to live coverage of Hefazat-e-Islam’s rally at Shapla Chattar in Dhaka to prevent the rise of anti-religious forces in Bangladesh. Earlier, Channel One and Peace TV were shut down.
In the recent past, on December 13, 2019, the so-called Muktijuddha Mancha, a government-backed gang, carried out a naked attack on Abul Asad, a veteran writer and editor of the daily Sangram. The newspaper office was vandalized and extensive damage was done. However, the oppressed journalist was arrested and taken away by the government police on charges of sedition and digital security.
Although he was granted bail on the grounds of age and social status, he was granted bail for one year by the High Court on September 23, 2020 after much harassment and almost 10 months of imprisonment. However, due to the conspiratorial intervention of the state, on September 29, 2020, the court suspended his bail for eight weeks. The case has not been withdrawn or dismissed yet.
Although the allegation is not serious, the case of using a martyr before someone’s name and taking him to jail with a case may not be found anywhere except Bangladesh. If journalists and writers do not have the freedom to use language, the pen-fighters will be defeated. International human rights organization Amnesty International has called on the Bangladeshi authorities to release Abul Asad, the daily Sangram editor, immediately and unconditionally.
In a statement, Amnesty said Abul Asad, an eight-year-old editor of the daily Sangram, had been in pre-trial detention for the past nine months. Authorities detained him because of his peaceful belief in the Digital Security Act.
The organization called on the Bangladeshi authorities to ensure a free and independent working environment for journalists in the country. (Source: Naya Diganta, 01 October 2020) President Ruhul Amin Gazi was also arrested on bail in the same case. Former president of the National Press Club Shawkat Mahmud has served various terms in jail. A case is still pending against Manabjamin chief editor Matiur Rahman Chowdhury.
Earlier, Mahmudur Rahman, acting editor of Amar Desh, a brave journalist, was arrested from his office. On August 19, 2010, he was sentenced to six months in jail and fined Rs 100,000 (one lakh).
Torture did not stop even after he was released from jail for a long period of time. Kushtia district BCL president Yasir Arafat Tushar filed a case in the name of Mahmudur Rahman on December 10, 2016. He was attacked on July 22, 2016 when he went to a Kushtia court to seek permanent bail. (Source: The Daily Star, 23 July 2018). The conscientious people of the country are shocked when Mahmudur Rahman, the editor of a national daily, has to be wounded in a bloody incident in the court premises.
As helpless as the nation is, when a journalist seeks security from a judge and the judge calls the police and orders them to provide security, the police do not take it into account but give the government cadres a chance to attack him. The gangster role of the force was further exposed as the police did not arrest them even after the terrorists attacked at the tip of their noses. Mahmudu under the double pressure of the party forces and the law enforcement forces Rahman was forced to emigrate. He is now in Turkey.
Another journalist from ‘Amar Desh’, Wali Ullah Noman, was forced to leave the country for publishing an immoral conversation on Skype between Ahmed Ziauddin, a Belgian expatriate lawyer, and Justice Nizamul Haque Nasim, the chairman of the so-called International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. They get caught while discussing on Skype who the government wants to hang by writing verdicts from abroad, how many people will be hanged if they are hanged, etc.
At last said myself, I am Md Wali Ullah, Lots of torture by law enforcement of Bangladesh during 28th December 2018 before National Election. They covered my eyes and send to a dark room. Hanging my legs on the floor. Why I said truth all time. The authorities warn several time for stop truth writing. But i did not their illegal response. Thats why they took me and torturing lots of. Again June 2019 they took and send to their torture cell.
The international media ‘The Economist’ first published it. The media leaked the 18-hour conversation between August 28 and October 20, 2012. Between September 2011 and September 2012, The Economist published more than 230 emails. Then on December 9, 2012, when journalist Wali Ullah Noman started publishing it in ‘Amar Desh’ magazine at the risk of his life, the government’s ploy to assassinate dissident leaders through drama staged in the name of justice began to be exposed to the public. He resigned in December.
The court banned the publication of the Skype scandal on December 13, 2012. (Source: The Economist, December 15, 2012, Amnesty International, January 08, 2013) It has become ‘Amar Desh’ which has not been launched yet. Although ‘Amar Desh’ has been published online in the UK since August 30, 2020, but in Bangladesh, the opportunity to read that online version has been blocked.
Anyone who writes against government injustice or illegal activities. They were tortured in various ways to raise their voices. Writer and columnist Farah went out to buy medicine from a house in Dhaka on July 3, 2016. Ad Mazhar was abducted. Sixteen hours later, he was rescued from Jessore in a state of panic and physical devastation.
In a BBC report on December 9, 2016, he said that there was an attempt to abduct him and take him to the other side of the border (in India) and that the police tried to force him to make a false confession after he was rescued. Attempts were made to stop it.
Journalist and photographer Shahidul Alam was arrested on August 5, 2016 for questioning the legitimacy of the government during an interview in Al Jazeera. He was released from jail on November 20, 2016 under the pressure of domestic and foreign movements.
Barrister Moinul Hossain, an adviser to the former caretaker government, played a key role in forming a strong anti-government coalition, the National Unity Front, before the 2016 elections. He tried to build public opinion by writing about it in the media. A case was filed under the Digital Security Act and he was arrested on October 22. It is alleged that the people’s right to vote was taken away on the night of December 30, 2016.
Journalists were barred from entering the polling station so that no evidence could be found. Barrister Moinul Hossain has been released from jail on January 26, 2019. He is no longer as vocal as before. He was fired on September 9, 2020 for writing an article titled ‘Jyotirmoy Zia’ in a national daily. Morshed Hasan Khan.
Most recently, on October 29, 2020, Golam Sarwar, a member of the Bangladesh Federal Union of Journalists and staff reporter of today’s Chittagong Bureau of Sunrise and executive editor and publisher of City News BD.com, went missing from Chittagong. Three days later, on November 1, 2020, locals rescued him from a bush near the Dhaka-Chittagong highway in Sitakunda’s Kumira Union in a half-dead and unwell condition. He was reportedly physically tortured with iron rods and sticks. A video of him going viral on social media shows him saying, ‘Brother, don’t kill me, I won’t do any more news’. This is proof of the horrific brutality in torturing journalists and silencing the voices of brave journalists for publishing true news.
Mahal and political leaders are not tolerating any criticism. Unspeakable torture, imprisonment, disappearance and murder of journalists of different opinions are happening every day. None of the personal security, social status and job security of journalists is being protected.
In September 2016, the Government of Bangladesh passed the Digital Security Act. A new section was added to the previous oppressive sections of the Information and Communication Technology Act. A new tool was created to suppress opposition to stop criticism of the government. There is a provision of 10 years imprisonment for spreading rumors. Doing the same thing over and over again can lead to life imprisonment. Lawsuits, arrests and torture are being made under the Security Act. Lawsuits have even been filed against some journalists stationed abroad. The government is threatening to cancel the passports of the expatriates.
Police arrested a woman named Mahmuda Polly Akhter (33) under the Rapta Act. The woman was arrested within hours of a man named Advocate Md. Rana Ahmed Shant filing the case. Before his disappearance on March 10, 2020, Shafiqul Islam Kajal, editor of the investigative journalist ‘Pakshakal’, reported on human trafficking for prostitution, with the involvement of multiple politicians. When the report spread through social media, two high-ranking Awami League leaders lodged a complaint against Kajal. Three cases were filed against him under the Digital Security Act for allegedly posting “insulting posts” online.
Police later launched an investigation under the law. On May 3, 2020, journalist Kajal was found blindfolded and handcuffed at the Indian border. He was then taken to jail for investigation. Thus, last year, in 2019, 1135 people were arrested in 632 cases under the Digital Security Act. In the first two months of this year, 339 more people were arrested in 175 cases. So one of the laws that violates the constitutional rights of the people is the ‘Digital Security Act’.
After analyzing the overall situation, the United Nations has called for an end to the torture of journalists in Bangladesh. They also commented that there are concerns about the use of digital security laws to curtail freedom of speech in Bangladesh. Such harassment can have devastating consequences for media workers, their families and society as a whole. Bangladesh ranks 151st out of 180 countries in the list of free journalism.
This shows how difficult journalism is becoming day by day in Bangladesh. Under the pressure of various laws including digital security law, the media itself is being forced to be in ‘self censorship’ which is in conflict with the spirit of democratic state and independent Bangladesh.
Journalists and human rights activists at home and abroad are demanding the repeal of these laws, which curtail freedom of expression. Human rights groups Stand for Bangladesh, Equal Rights International and Online Activist Forum UK also called on the government to repeal the restrictive digital security law and protect the freedom of expression of every citizen.
Jamal Khashoggi, a world-renowned journalist, was assassinated in October 2016 at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, in countries around the world where anyone holding a pen or shouting in protest of government oppression and injustice is being held in prison. However, Khashoggi was considered an important figure in Saudi Arabia because of his close ties to various members of the Saudi royal family, who was once a media adviser to the Saudi ambassador to Britain (2005) Turki bin Faisal Abdul Aziz. When the man started writing to criticize the Saudi monarchy, he became angry with the government and had to pay with his life.
Although the Saudi government initially tried to cover up the incident, it was forced to admit it due to international pressure and Turkey’s tough action. Agnes Calamard, the UN’s twenty-one correspondent on arbitrary executions, recently told Turkey’s state news agency Anadolu In an exclusive interview, he said that the Saudi Crown Prince is considered to be the main suspect in instructing and instigating the assassination after Jamal Khashoggi was killed. (Source: Bangladesh Pratidin, 12 July 2020) On September 8, 2020, the court commuted the death sentence of 5 (five) accused in the Khashoggi murder case to 20 years in prison. Another 3 (three) were given 8 to 10 years in prison.
But human rights groups have criticized the verdict, saying no one or other senior official was convicted in the trial. The court’s impartiality has been questioned. A UN expert has condemned the allegations as “parodies” in the name of justice. He has filed a lawsuit in Washington, D.C., alleging that Khashoggi, a resident of Saudi Arabia and a dissident, was targeted and ordered to be killed.
The lawsuit alleges personal injury and financial loss. Has demanded compensation. Earlier, the first elected president in the history of Egypt. During the unjust removal of Mohamed Morsi (2013) The dictatorial CC court has jailed three Al Jazeera journalists for covering news. Recently, Raihan Kabir, a Bangladeshi expatriate from Malaysia, was disgusted with the Malaysian government for giving interviews to the media about the treatment of migrant workers in that country. The lock-up in Malaysia’s Lockdown documentary, aired on Al-Jazeera on July 3, said that workers had been discriminated against as a result of the order. Raihan Kabir was arrested. He was interrogated for 28 days in a row. He was banned in Malaysia forever. Apart from various international organizations, Malaysian human rights organizations condemned his arrest and demanded his release.
Finally, on 21 August 2020, the Malaysian government sent Raihan Kabir to Bangladesh. (Source: Manabjamin, August 23, 2020) Earlier this year, as Muslims protested against the controversial citizenship law in India, extremists brutally attacked the country, killing at least 50 people and injuring hundreds more. Harassment, beatings, and even death threats are at hand. An image journalist named Rey Danish Siddiqui was forced to go into hiding.
Everywhere in the world, those who have written or raised their voices against the unjust tyranny of the state power have been tortured or assassinated in various ways.
On February 11, 2012, the mutilated bodies of journalist couple Sagar Sarwar and Meherun Runi were found in a rented house in Dhaka. It will be unveiled. However, even after 8 years, the mystery is still unknown to the nation. The investigation report of Sagar-Runi murder case was postponed 75 times.
Leader Iqbal Sobhan Chowdhury talks about Sagar-Runi after getting the post of information advisor at one time. Another journalist, Mozammel Babu, took control of the television channel by brokering the so-called government. In another channel called Dhaka University Criminology Department teacher. Ziaur Rahman linked salutation and saying Allah Hafez with militancy.
In both cases, the values and religious sentiments of Muslims were hurt. This shows the unity of the majority of the people against the two channels and they boycott these channels. With the unwritten intervention of the government, Manjurul Ahsan Bulbuls took over Ekushey Television. Pro-government journalists were promoted overnight. Due to the narrow interests of these media outlets, the views of the majority of the people are not reflected. The journalists of the media are not able to publish / disseminate news with the national interest predominant. If you work in tandem, you will evolve into a journalist.
Engr. Md Wali Ullah